Reminisce: Brown killed in the line of duty

It’s been 50 years since Patrolman William F. “Bill” Brown of the Lima Police Department offered his life in service of his community.

Brown died after interrupting a robbery in progress at the Certified Oil Station at the intersection of Cole Street and Robb Avenue around 9:33 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, 1974.

That led to a “massive manhunt” to find the gunman who shot down the police officer of 15 1/2 years, according to The Lima News on Jan. 6, 1974.

“Apparently, Brown was on routine patrol and drove into the service station,” The Lima News reported. “He asked two attendants if everything was all right. They replied that it was.

“Officer Brown turned to walk away and a third person standing in the driveway fired a shot at him.”

Assistant Coroner Dr. Gene Wright, who later became Allen County’s coroner, ruled Brown had been struck by four bullets that caused internal hemorrhaging, striking him in both arms, the neck and the chest.

Brown drew his own revolver and fired one shot, which didn’t hit the suspect. Brown reached his patrol car and summoned help, which rushed him to St. Rita’s Hospital, where he died in the emergency room.

Fellow officers came rushing to help find his killer.

“There were about 150 law officers from city police, sheriff’s deputies, township officers, Ohio State Patrolmen and Allen County REACT at the scene,” The Lima News reported. “Every available lawman was called into the dragnet.”

Brown, who joined the police department in 1958, was 40 at the time of his death. He was the son of Arthur T. and Helen Tippie. He left behind his wife, Phyllis Lowry Brown, and seven children, including two daughters, Tracy and Debra, and five sons, William, Michael, Gregory, David and Gary.

People from the community rushed to help in any way they could, raising a nearly $2,500 reward in the first day to find the gunman, or about $16,000 in today’s dollars adjusted for inflation. The reward expanded to $4,620 a few days later, with the newspaper listing donors each day.

A memorial fund started by Mayor Harry Moyer, who’d been in office for just one month, helped the family with expenses. It reached nearly $8,327 by Jan. 11.

“These are trying times and when an officer is killed in the line of duty, I believe we owe the responsibility to these people who protect us,” Moyer said in The Lima News on Jan. 8, 1974.

More than 600 law enforcement officers and citizens passed by the open casket before and after Fraternal Order of Police memorial services, the newspaper reported.

“More than 200 law officers each placed a white carnation upon Brown’s casket, opening the memorial services,” The Lima News reported Jan. 8.

During the service at Siferd Westwood Chapel, the Rev. Nolan Bogart, pastor of Mount Tabor Church of God near Lewistown, read a letter Brown left behind in a small envelope that read, “To my pastor at my death. To be read before preparing the service,” The Lima News reported Jan. 9, 1974.

“As you sit there sober-faced and sorrowful, looking at the dust of the earth that my soul once lived in, think of that wonderful song, ‘What a Day It Will Be When My Jesus I Will See,’” Brown wrote and Bogart repeated.

Bogart read the words to the song, saying it was too emotional to sing it that day, and he finished reading the letter signed, “With Love for your lost soul, Brother in Christ, Bill Brown.”

As a motorcade of 150 cars, including 70 police cruisers, delivered him to Memorial Park Cemetery, motorists got out of their vehicles, removed their hats and bowed their heads. After a short ceremony at the graveside, Bogart presented the flag to Brown’s widow, Phyllis.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed a resolution Jan. 10 honoring Brown, saying the members “hereby extend our deepest sympathies to the bereaved family and friends of William F. Brown, one of Ohio’s finest citizens and an outstanding law enforcement officer, who gave his life in order to preserve the public peace.”

Authorities made an arrest in the case on Jan. 9, four days after the death. They arrested Ross Daniel Caudill, 18, of Lima. Lima Police Chief William K. Davenport said the arrest was a combined effort by the police and sheriff’s office.

Caudill used what was believed to be a .38-caliber revolver before running, jumping a fence behind the station and running between houses to a nearby laundromat, where Davenport believed he’d gotten into a vehicle and fled.

Calvin Dean McPheron, 18, of Lima, was also arrested Jan. 10. Both men had $100,000 bonds placed on them, or roughly $642,000 in today’s dollars. He acknowledged being in the getaway car during testimony in October 1974. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery, receiving two consecutive seven to 25-year prison terms.

Caudill pleaded innocent by reason of insanity but was later ruled competent to stand trial. He pleaded no contest and was found guilty by a three-judge panel of aggravated murder with a specification of killing an officer engaged in his duties. He was sentenced Jan. 9, 1975, to life in prison. Now 68, he remains incarcerated at Madison Correctional Institution in London, Ohio, with his next parole eligibility date set for this February.

Each of his parole attempts thus far failed, with Brown’s family fighting against Caudill’s release.

“We’re just going to explain to them this inmate made a plea deal and the plea deal was life and that’s what we want,” Brown’s daughter, Deb Hurst, told The Lima News in March 2014. “We want him to serve out the plea deal that he made.”

The Lima police chief in 2005, J. Gregory Garlock, expressed his appreciation for the sacrifice Brown gave in a letter to the editor on June 30, 2005.

“Officer Brown was exactly where his duties and responsibilities took him, putting himself in harm’s way in order to protect the residents of our community,” Garlock wrote.

Brown’s death was the most recent death of a Lima Police Department officer while on duty. There are five total who died in service, including Patrolman Charles C. Bozeman (1951), Detective Charles E. Hefner (1951), Patrolman Phillip Droesch (1918) and Patrolman Philip Goeble (1902), according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.


This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.


See past Reminisce stories at

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.